Swiss parcel service plagued by sorting problems

Three post office executives are leaving the nationalised corporation at the end of September, following months of software and hardware problems in centralised parcel sorting centres.

This content was published on September 10, 1999 - 05:56

Three post office executives are leaving the nationalised corporation at the end of September, following months of software and hardware problems in centralised parcel sorting centres.

The new high-tech centres were set up as the post office’s answer to stiff competition from international express parcel firms.

The Swiss post office used to be part of the PTT, a huge state-owned body that
had a monopoly on postal and telecommunications services.

The telecom part has now been semi-privatised, while the post office continues as a government-owned service meant to cover its costs.

Previously, Switzerland's comprehensive and efficient postal services were cross-subsidised by profits from the telecom activities. Now, that the post office is expected to turn in a profit, streamlining is the name of the game.

Jobs have been cut, specialist services -- such as express parcel delivery -- have seen steep price increases, and as much automation as possible has been introduced.

The post office has now run into trouble with its new and fully-automated parcel sorting centres. These high-tech temples are beset by software and hardware problems.

The long-standing tradition of obliging customers to put a string round parcels in order to make them easier to handle is causing the sorting equipment to tangle up.

The result has been massive delays in parcel deliveries and considerable loss of revenue for the post office.

This comes at a time when the post office has lost most of its monopoly position in the parcel sector and with international express parcel firms carving up the Swiss market.

As an interim measure, local sorting offices have had to be reopened and extra staff rehired.

Once the computer and hardware problems are solved, the Swiss post office will have the most modern labour-saving sorting system in the world. But it is unlikely that all the gremlins in the system will be removed before the new year.

From SRI staff

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